Green Bay Packers: Top 10 teams since 1992: No. 4 – 2011 Packers

Continuing on with my series of the top ten Green Bay Packers teams from the Favre/Rodgers era, at number four I have the 2011 Packers.

The 2011 Green Bay Packers entered the year with a title that they had not had since 1997, they were defending world champions.

The Packers made a point to continue to hunt instead of being hunted as they would begin their season with 13 consecutive wins. They made a run at 16-0 and did that behind one of the most dominant offenses the league has seen in recent memory.

Aaron Rodgers won the first of his two MVP awards, while Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Driver, Randall Cobb, and Jermichael Finley formed what Sports Illustrated would refer to as “The Perfect Pack.” It was a group of weapons the league may never see again.

However, the Green Bay Packers defense from a yardage standpoint was the worst in football. Some of that was due to the prolific nature of their offense as teams had to throw against them early and often.

That being said, it was nowhere near the group it was the season prior. In 2010 the Packers defense was one of the best in football. In 2011, they were one of the worst. Their saving grace was that they led the league in interceptions and finished the year with 31. The secondary was filled with absolute ballhawks despite losing Nick Collins to a career ending injury in week 2.

Ultimately, the Green Bay Packers were bad in every phase of the game in their lone playoff performance when they were sent home by the New York Giants. Their defense was poor throughout the season but in this game they were uncharacteristically sloppy, Rodgers threw an interception, they fumbled three times, and they dropped 10 passes. It was a very disappointing ending to the team’s most prolific season perhaps in their history.

Key players

Aaron Rodgers: 2011 was easily Rodgers’ best season as a pro as he picked right up where he left off from the previous year’s postseason. Rodgers set the record for best passer rating in a season with 122.5 and he threw 45 touchdowns to just six interceptions.

To put it simply, Rodgers was a human highlight reel every single week. He was locked in and spread the ball around to his array of weapons. If he had not already, this was when Rodgers took the throne as the best quarterback in all of football.

Greg Jennings: Despite playing in an offense that was based around spreading the ball, Jennings was the go-to guy. His numbers weren’t as gaudy, but when the team needed a big play, he was their guy.

He finished the year with 67 catches and nine touchdowns. Those numbers likely would have been bigger had he not missed the last three games of the regular season. Jennings clearly asserted himself as the team’s best receiver.

Jordy Nelson: Nelson was a Super Bowl hero from the previous season. He had the best game of all the wide receivers but was never really seen as a star in the making. However, 2011 was Nelson’s breakout season.

He finished the year with 15 touchdowns and made several big plays. A lot of the Packers’ offense was based around the belief that their third and fourth receivers were better than other teams’ third and fourth corners. That was especially true in 2011 with Nelson and James Jones attacking defenses.

Charles Woodson: It’s hard to put a defensive player on this list with a team that finished as poorly as they did, but Woodson had another great season in 2011. He finished the year with seven interceptions and he gave warning signs early in the year that the Green Bay Packers defense needed to play better. Unfortunately, Dom Capers and company did not heed the advice of the future Hall of Famer.

Jermichael Finley:  He was the matchup tight end that the Packers based their entire offense around in 2010 before he was injured and Finley would bounce back in 2011 finishing the year with 55 catches and eight touchdowns.

He would struggle at times with drops but was very good for a team that had not had a quality tight end since the days of Mark Chumura. Finley gave the Packers even more of an ability to do things with their offense that most teams just couldn’t.

Highlights

The Packers opened the season with a bang. A 42-34 win over Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints was an instant classic that featured two of the best quarterbacks in football going round for round.

Later on, a 45-7 win on Monday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings was probably the most dominant performance the team would have all season.

Then the most exciting game of the season was a 38-35 win over the New York Giants in the Meadowlands. Rodgers got the ball back with less than a minute remaining, tied at 35. The Packers marched down the field quickly with completions to Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings, which was followed by a Mason Crosby field goal as time expired.

The last game of the season at Lambeau Field was exciting as well. The Green Bay Packers were resting a majority of their starters in preparation for the playoffs and quarterback Matt Flynn would earn a new contract based on this game alone. He threw six touchdown passes, including one to Jermichael Finley that would give the Packers a 45-41 lead they would not relinquish.

Lowlights

There isn’t much with a team that finishes 15-1 in terms of lowlights, but both losses were especially sloppy and the loss in Kansas City would end a perfect season. There’s not much else to say other than that the Chiefs just were not a good team that year.

A loss to the Giants at home in the playoffs was a feeling all too familiar to the Packers since they had done the same just four years prior. In both cases, the Packers were the better team, but they were unable to win on the field which is what mattered the most.

Next: Top 10 Packers teams since 1992: No. 5 - 2014 Packers

Why didn’t they win a championship?

The best team in football does not always win a championship and the 2011 Packers were a case of that. Green Bay was the best team but faced a perfect storm. Joe Philbin’s son passed away during the team’s bye week and it clearly affected the mood of a team that felt like family. The Packers responded with sloppy play against a team that matched up relatively well with them. A team that looked destined to repeat as world champions instead became a one-and-done.

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